Thematic Series

DEFA Doppelgänger

With our film series, DEFA Doppelgänger, we highlight DEFA’s position within world’s cinema. East German films were not produced in a secluded environment, but participated in a vibrant global culture of filmmaking.


The film classics in our series, from The Silent Star to Berlin – Schönhauser Corner, were celebrated internationally and remain audience favorites even after 1990. Like their colleagues both East and West, GDR filmmakers cashed in on popular entertainment, experimented with genre, and created vehicles for stars.


Each DEFA film we’ve chosen is paired with one or more non-GDR films, according to criteria, such as genre, stardom, or international acclaim.


1) MAY 27: Hot Summer (1967, dir. Joachim Hasler)


When you're a jet, you're a jet, unless you're in Germany, then you're a Flugzeug! If you love West Side Story, you’ll love DEFA’s Hot Summer!


The academic year is over, and we’re all ready for summer! If you’re thirsty for some sunshine, cool dance moves, and East German music hits, you’ll enjoy watching Joachim Hasler’s 1967 musical Hot Summer! Filmed on the Baltic shore, this youth story features pop stars Chris Doerk and Frank Schöbel and has become a cult film since it screened on German TV in 1993.


Doppelgänger: West Side Story / Grease / Beach Party Bingo



2) JUNE 3: Seven Freckles (1978, dir. Herrmann Zschoche)


“What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Speaking of the East, the GDR had its own Romeo and Juliet, but they are Robbi and Caroline, and in this story, love doesn’t end in a casket.


Caroline and Robert knew each other as children. Years later, they meet again at summer camp and fall in love; but being alone together is made difficult by the camp’s rigorous daily routine. Zschoche’s sensitive coming-of-age film about first love and sexual awakening struck a chord with East German teenagers. It was shown in sold-out cinemas and became a box office hit.


Doppelgänger: Romeo and Juliet / Moonrise Kingdom / Little Darlings



3) JUNE 10: Berlin - Schönhauser Corner (1957, dir. Gerhard Klein)


WILD is the same in English as it is in German: Berlin - Schönhauser Corner!


A gang of rebels hang out on the streets of post-WWII East Berlin, before the Wall is built. Like their western counterparts, they want to dance to rock’n’roll, wear cool styles, and get away from the constraints of home and authorities. Ekkehard Schall, a beloved stage and film star in East Germany, offered young GDR audiences a homegrown embodiment of Marlon Brando, one of the most popular international stars of the 1950s. This classic was greeted with suspicion by East German officials, but still became a box-office hit. It is counted among Germany’s 100 most important films.


Doppelgänger: Rebel Without a Cause / The Wild One



4) JUNE 17: Five Days, Five Nights (1960, dirs. Lev Arnshtam, Anatoli Golowanow, Heinz Thiel)


In times of crisis, the importance of the arts becomes clearer. That is the heart of things in this co-production featuring the Soviet version of the Monuments Men story.


1945: When Red Army Captain Leonov and his soldiers are ordered to recover the lost paintings of Dresden's Old Master’s Gallery, city residents join the search over the next 5 days. A secret Nazi document offers a first lead…


Doppelgänger: Rebel Without a Cause / The Wild One



5) JUNE 24: For Eyes Only - Top Secret (1963, dir. János Veiczi)


Dr. No? Yes, doctor. I’ll take two doses of For Eyes Only and call you in the morning.


Hansen is a double agent working for the East German secret police. He has infiltrated American Military Intelligence in order to obtain and bring back classified, top-secret documents. After the cover of several US spies is blown, Hansen’s boss suspects a leak in his own ranks and has Hansen take a lie detector test. Some film critics have described this movie as “the answer to the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962)."


Doppelgänger: James Bond movies/ Bridge of Spies / The Spy Who Came In from the Cold



6) JULY 1: The Silent Star (1960, dir. Kurt Maetzig)

“Welcome to Earth!”  Long before Will Smith’s space team unified the world against an extraterrestrial enemy, an international space team bridged Cold War divides. This co-produced sci-fi movie is based on Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s novel The Astronauts. 


The Silent Star is the first East German science-fiction film, made during the Cold War space race set off by the Sputnik launch. Praised as a technical masterpiece, the film features an international cast for an international expedition sent to Venus to decipher a message found in the Gobi Desert – and discovers it is a declaration of war on Earth. An altered version of this Polish/GDR co-production later appeared in the US as First Spaceship on Venus. The American version had been dubbed and cut, with new names, changed dialogue and deleted characters, including the Russian commander.


Doppelgänger: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Mars Attacks, Independence Day



7) JULY 8: The Legend of Paul and Paula (1973, dir. Heiner Carow)


Paula (Angelica Domröse, here in her biggest box-office hit!), an attractive young mother with great joie de vivre, has two children from different fathers. Pencil-pusher Paul is in a loveless marriage with the more “bourgeois” but beautiful Ines. When Paula and Paul meet in a bar, they fall in love; but Paul can’t make up his mind, and almost loses Paula. When Paul decides to win Paula back, their love becomes a legend in the neighborhood, intensified by a tragic twist. Domröse was regularly compared to French mega-star and sex icon Bardot, earning her the title GDR-Bardot, and thereby aligning East German star culture with western models of stardom.  


Doppelgänger: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Mars Attacks, Independence Day


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